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Magners Preview: Cardiff Blues v Connacht

Magners Preview: Cardiff Blues v Connacht

After chalking up their first win of the season last week against Glasgow, Connacht will travel with renewed confidence to Cardiff. However, the westerners have not won at the Arms Park since 2001 and will have to show their best form to break that run.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, September 26

CARDIFF BLUES v CONNACHT, Arms Park, 7.05pm (live BBC Wales/Setanta Sports Ireland)

Team News: Connacht have been boosted by the return from injury of winger Mike Roberts and lock Michael Swift for their trip to the Arms Park on Friday evening to take on Cardiff Blues.

Roberts will make his competitive debut for Connacht when he starts on the left wing.

Swift returns to the side having missed the 15-8 victory over Glasgow at the weekend. He will partner Andrew Browne in the second row.

Ireland international Johnny O’Connor, introduced as a replacement against Glasgow having recovered from an arm injury, will start in the back row.

Gavin Duffy, Keith Matthews and Ray Ofisa were not considered due to injuries picked up in the win over Glasgow.

Connacht coach Michael Bradley said the enforced changes will give an opportunity to others to stake a claim for a regular starting place.

“It gives the guys who did not start last week a chance to put down a marker ahead of the European Challenge Cup campaign,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cardiff Blues boss David Young has selected a 22-man squad that sees Deiniol Jones, Xavier Rush and Richie Rees all return from injury for the visit of Connacht.

Friday’s match will also see John Yapp make his first start for the team at loosehead prop.

However, Yapp will continue to train at tighthead where it is hoped he will develop over the long term. Gethin Jenkins suffered a minor injury to his neck in last weekend’s defeat to Munster.

Blues hooker Gareth Williams suffered a deep cut on his head in the Munster game, which means young Blues Academy and Pontypridd hooker Rhys Williams has gained a place on the bench.

Ben Blair is rested after starting every game for the Blues this season, which gives young prospect Leigh Halfpenny the chance to shine at full-back having impressed on the wing in the recent win over Ulster.

CARDIFF BLUES: Leigh Halfpenny; Richard Mustoe, Jamie Robinson, Jamie Roberts, Gareth Thomas; Ceri Sweeney, Jason Spice; John Yapp, Rhys Thomas, Gary Powell, Deiniol Jones, Paul Tito (capt), Maama Molitika, Robin Sowden Taylor, Andy Powell.

Replacements: Taufa’ao Filise, Rhys Williams, Scott Morgan, Xavier Rush, Richie Rees, Nicky Robinson, Tom Shanklin.

CONNACHT: Fionn Carr; Aidan Wynne, John Hearty, Mel Deane, Mike Roberts; Andy Dunne, Frank Murphy; John Lyne, Adrian Flavin, Robbie Morris, Andrew Browne, Michael Swift, John Muldoon (capt), Johnny O’Connor, Colm Rigney.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Ronan Loughney, Andrew Farley, Mike McCarthy, Kieran Campbell, Ian Keatley, Liam Bibo.

Referee: Carlo Damasco (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Neil Ballard, Leighton Hodges (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)

Say What: Michael Bradley (Connacht) – “Our defence was not where it should have been against Llanelli the previous week. A lot of work was done on that during the week and it was great to produce that performance on the field (against Glasgow) last Friday.

“We had to defend for much longer than we would have wanted to, but the lads stepped up to the mark. There is still plenty of work to be done but this gives us a big boost and a platform.

“The crowd were great too (against Glasgow). It is a huge boost in a tight match which can go either way and fair play to the supporters, they really lifted the side, especially in the second-half when the game hung in the balance.

“Hopefully, some will travel across with us to Cardiff and be back in big numbers when we take on Leinster on Sunday week.”

David Young (Cardiff Blues) – “I have great respect for our opponents Connacht. What we expect from Connacht is what we get year-on-year, a very honest workmanlike performance with players really playing their hearts out for each other.

“They are also very well organised by their coaching staff. There’s plenty of variation in their game but I’d like to think, physically and skills wise, we’d have the edge on them.

“We have go out and win because every game you play against Connacht is a potential banana skin for every team. I’m sure they’ll come to the Arms Park determined to get some points.

“However, we have to build on our Munster performance and put away any opportunities we have. We were better against Munster but in the first three games we were getting ourselves in position and not scoring the points.

“I felt against Leinster and Ulster if we had gone two scores in front, we would have kicked on and won those games comfortably. We need to be scoring more tries and more points (this evening).”

Top Scorers: 2008/09 Magners League – Points: Cardiff Blues: Ben Blair 36; Connacht: Ian Keatley 8; Tries: Cardiff Blues: Ben Blair, Leigh Halfpenny, Aled Brew, Richard Mustoe, Maama Molitika 1 each; Connacht: Fionn Carr, Brett Wilkinson 1 each.


Saturday, September 3, 2005 – Connacht 13 Cardiff Blues 9, The Sportsground
Saturday, April 29, 2006 – Cardiff Blues 30 Connacht 12, Arms Park
Saturday, November 18, 2006 – Cardiff Blues 15 Connacht 13, Arms Park
Saturday, April 7, 2007 – Connacht 16 Cardiff Blues 16, The Sportsground
Friday, October 12, 2007 – Cardiff Blues 30 Connacht 16, Arms Park
Friday, May 2, 2008 – Connacht 11 Cardiff Blues 39, The Sportsground


– Cardiff’s last defeat at the Arms Park in any competition was an 11-10 loss to Edinburgh in the Magners League on January 4 last

– The Blues’ last reversal at home to an Irish side was when Leinster visited on September 28, 2007

– Connacht broke their season’s duck last Friday evening in Galway with a 15-8 victory over Glasgow Warriors

– Connacht’s last away win was also in Wales against the Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade on April 18 last. The westerners’ only previous victory at the Arms Park was a 6-3 success against Cardiff RFC in the league on August 18, 2001

– Connacht have won just one of their ten previous encounters with the Blues – a 13-9 win in Galway on September 3, 2005